Play review: I’ll Be Back Before Midnight

Murder mystery is brought to the stage with WCT’s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight

If you’re tired of watching the same old murder mysteries on TV, why not try one at the theatre? Western Canada Theatre’s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight opened this past week at the Sagebrush Theatre, and as far as murder mysteries go, this one was surprisingly well-done, especially since it’s much harder to pull off “scary” on stage.

As always, WCT has done an amazing job with the set, including many small details that, while not important to the play directly, add so much to the atmosphere of the room. The music ranges from eerie ambience to toe-tapping swing, which seems odd, but kind of works, especially to help set the time period in the early 1980s.

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is a two-act play, set in one room of an old farmhouse. Jan and Greg Sanderson (played by Brieanna Blizzard and David Van Belle) are cityfolk who have decided to rent the place. Jan is visibly afraid of being so secluded in such an old house, while Greg welcomes the peace and quiet he expects for his sabbatical.

Greg’s affectionate sister, Laura Sanderson (Alana Hawley) and the neighbouring farmer from whom they rented the house, George Willowby (Paul Cowling) are soon introduced. Right from the beginning, it is obvious that Cowling’s character is meant to be the comic relief, and the actor certainly delivers. Cowling has perfected the happy-go-lucky drawl of a farmer, which only makes it that much more enjoyable when he discusses the murders that have occurred in the area.

While Cowling has his character down to a T, Blizzard’s is a little over the top. I get that Jan is scared, but almost all of her lines are delivered as if she has just run a marathon and is completely out of breath. Her dialogue feels contrived and her actions are a bit over-acted.

That being said, the scariest parts of the play are when we are brought into her head and in the scenes during which it is only her flashlight lighting the entire set. When the legitimacy of Jan’s knowledge is questioned, the audience is left to wonder whose perspective we are actually seeing things from and what we are to believe. The play does a good job of replicating that feeling that grips you in the middle of the night; the thoughts of “was I dreaming, or did that really happen?”

As the play progresses, the audience is given more and more clues as to why this couple decided to rent the house in the first place, the real relationships between characters and what exactly it is that is making Jan so paranoid. We are bombarded with so many plot bits, that by intermission it feels as though there are too many loose ends to be tied up, and it is difficult to see where the story is headed.

Although I left feeling a bit confused with how much was tied up in the end of the play, the mark of a good playwright is his ability to keep his audience thinking about his play long after they leave the theatre, and he succeeded here.

Although there are many tongue-in-cheek classic horror story elements, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is successful in bringing the murder mystery genre to the stage. The scary parts are truly scary, and although it was a bit much, I can truthfully say that I never would have expected that ending.

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight runs from now until Feb. 6. Student tickets priced at $19 are available at the Kamloops Live! Box Office or at kamloopslive.ca.